President Trump sent the graduating class from Coast Guard Academy to their missions Wednesday, extolling the vital contribution this often overlooked branch of the military makes fighting smugglers and saving the shipwrecked on America’s waterways.
The president praised the 199 graduates for choosing to defend the country and their parents who raised them to pursue military service.
“These fine young cadets are about to take their rightful place on the front line of defense for the United States of America,” he said in a commencement speech at the academy in New London, Connecticut. “Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations but the gratitude of each and every American, and we all salute you.”
It was Mr. Trump’s first commencement address to a U.S. military academy, and he went to lengths to highlight the important and unique role the Coast Guard plays in national security.
“Out of the five branches of our Armed Services, it’s only the Coast Guard that has the power to break through 21 feet of rock-solid Arctic ice, right?” he told the cadets. “You’re the only ones. And I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years.”
The president also commended the Class of 2017 for earning a reputation often associated with the Coast Guard: completing missions with skill and pride despite having fewer resources and fewer people than other branches of the military.
“I’d like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule,” he said, using a phrase he previously applied to his business record. “We’re doing a lot of that now in the United States government.”
In a nod to the turmoil plaguing his administration, Mr. Trump also told the cadets to follow his example and “never give up” when life treats you wrongly or unfairly.
“Look at the way I’ve been treated recently, especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” said the president. “You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and naysayers get in the way of your dreams,” he said. “Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in. Never back down.”
He described the difficult work of the Coast Guard, from patrolling ports and waterways, pursuing smugglers and plucking stranded sailors from the high seas.
“Soon, some of you will be leading boardings of suspicious vessels, searching for the most deadly weapons and detaining criminals to keep our people safe,” said Mr. Trump. “Others of you will work with partners in scores of countries around the globe, bringing in the full power of the United States Coast Guard right up to those distant shores.”
He described the Coast Guard’s far-flung missions, which many Americans are unaware of.
“To secure our borders from drug cartels, human smugglers and terrorist threats, Coast Guard Cutters patrol more than 1,500 miles below our southern border,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t know that.”
“In rough seas, at high speeds, our incredible Coast Guard snipers take their aim at the smugglers’ engines. And time after time, they take out the motors on the first shot. They don’t like wasting the bullets, right?” he continued. “Your slice through roaring storms, and through pouring rain and crashing waves is a place where few other people will ever venture — exciting. Exciting. But you have to have it in your heart. You have to love it. You love it.”
“In the Coast Guard, you don’t run from danger, you chase it,” said Mr. Trump.
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